Coffee With Kyle

Coffee with Kyle: The life and times of Wendell Scott

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In 1952, a track promoter went to the police station in Danville, Virginia, looking for recommendations on bootleggers to use as a marketing ploy for the “Dixie Circuit.”

“What they told him at the police station was, ‘The one you really want is Wendell Scott,” said Frank Scott on the latest episode of “Coffee with Kyle.”

Kyle Petty visited Danville, a town located 33 miles east of Martinsville, to talk with the family of NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, the only African-American driver to win a premier level NASCAR race (Dec. 1, 1963 in Jacksonville, Florida).

Petty sat down with his son, Frank, and grandson, Warrick, to discuss Wendell’s life and career.

Petty asked how Scott was attracted to stock car racing, a predominately white sport in the segregated south.

“He loved speed,” Frank said. “He and one of his friends used to go to the Danville fairgrounds and race there. He was already a bootlegger. But he said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do.”

Scott eventually gave NASCAR a shot. Petty tells the story of Scott being denied entry into a race in High Point, North Carolina, where he told a white driver could race in his car. Scott refused.

It was one of many instances where the color of Scott’s skin negatively impacted his racing dreams, including being refused the trophy for his win in 1963 … after he beat second place by two laps.

He eventually got a NASCAR license and competed as an independent driver from 1961-73.

“There wasn’t but one place in that era that wouldn’t allow us to race, and that was Darlington,” Frank said of the track, which used a Confederate flag to start races at the time. “In ’62, ’63 and ’64 his entries were rejected. … Then when the Civil Rights Act passed we ran at Darlington in ’65 and then on.”

One snub that stayed with Scott was the 1961 Rookie of the Year Award. While Scott competed in 23 of 52 races that year and claimed five top 10s, the award went to a driver named Woodie Wilson, who made five starts and had one top 10.

“I think my father, other than not getting his trophy at Jacksonville, that’s one of things that bothered him more throughout his career, throughout his life to not receive Rookie of the Year honors,” Frank said. “That was a travesty.”

The legacy of Wendell Scott is still seen decades later. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2018, a section of highway near Danville was named after him and he was portrayed by Joseph Lee Anderson in an episode of the NBC time travel drama “Timeless.”

His legacy is also continued through the work of the Wendell Scott Foundation, which was founded by Warrick. The foundation works to “expose youth to STEM-based educational opportunities and cultural enrichment activities that historically have not been assessed in under-served communities.”

Watch the above video for more on Wendell Scott and his history with the Petty family.

 

 

Coffee With Kyle: Legendary NASCAR broadcaster Ken Squier (Parts 1 & 2)

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This week’s two-part “Coffee With Kyle” is a sure-to-be classic with a classic broadcaster, NASCAR Hall of Famer Ken Squier.

Kyle Petty visited Squier at the radio station which has been in his family since 1930, WDEV Radio/Radio Free Vermont, in Waterbury, Vermont (Squier still works at the station today, including giving daily sports updates).

It’s where Squier got his start at the tender age of 15, calling sprint car and midget car races in his home state.

That was where I decided I would spend the rest of my life,” Squier told Petty. “God, I loved those cars and I had to find a way to do it (for his profession).”

Squier’s life has been split between covering NASCAR and short track racing. At the age of 25, and a 10-year veteran of motorsports by that point, Squier was part of a group that built Thunder Road International Speedbowl – a high-banked, quarter-mile asphalt oval that still operates today.

A few years after that, Squier helped co-found and began calling NASCAR races for the Motor Racing Network. Both his life and the sport of NASCAR would never be the same.

Squier became the voice of NASCAR at first. But then he eventually moved in front of the TV camera to become the face of NASCAR as well for ABC, then CBS and TBS.

Shortly after World War II, Squier met fellow legendary broadcaster Chris Economaki, who became a close friend and a mentor to the lanky kid from Vermont.

He became the singular voice,” Squier said of Economaki. “I was fascinated by him. He really understood (racing).”

Then in a humorous twist, Squier compared his own “racing career” with that of Economaki.

He, too, started out to be a racer; I think he ran one race,” Squier said. “I thought I was the next Indianapolis star.

I ran a couple heats (in a local race in Vermont) and a guy in a six-cylinder Plymouth and I went down into Turn 1 and I knew no one had ever surpassed what I was doing in that corner.

This guy pulled up alongside me, waved and went on. I thought, ‘Well, maybe I have to rethink all this.’”

Among some of the most notable accomplishments of Squier’s career was not only calling so many races – including every Daytona 500 from 1979 through 1997 – but also some of the great phraseology that Squier brought to the sport, including the following:

* “These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

* “Common men doing uncommon deeds.

* “The Great American Race,” which became the motto of the Daytona 500

* “The Alabama Gang”

Check out Part 1 of Petty’s interview with Squier in the video above.

And then when you’re done, click the video below for Part 2 of the interview.

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Coffee with Kyle: Ned and Dale Jarrett discuss family’s racing beginnings

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Ned Jarrett wasn’t raised in a racing family.

He was brought up in the saw mill town of Newton, North Carolina, and became fond of racing after his father Homer took him to races in North Wilkesboro and Charlotte.

The 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and his son Dale Jarrett recounted their family’s racing origins in the latest edition of Kyle Petty’s “Coffee with Kyle.”

“When they started building the Hickory Speedway it was a big thing in the community,” Ned Jarrett told Petty. “You’d go down to the country story and all those farmers and saw millers were sitting around … and they’d say, ‘Boy, wait until they get that thing built. I’ll go up there and show them how to drive.’

“So I worked it out.”

Jarrett was present in the first race held at the short track in 1951, thanks to him winning half-interest in a car through a poker game.

Though he failed to let his dad know.

“My dad was a well-respected man in the community,” Jarrett said. “He shouldn’t see where his son is participating with that group of people.”

“That group” included various bootleggers.

Jarrett kept racing and left his father in the dark through a scheme where he would compete under his racing partner’s name. That scheme ended when they finally “lucked up and won a race” and word spread.

“My dad heard about it and he said, ‘Ok, if you’re so determined to drive one of those things use your own name and get credit for any accomplishments that you may have along the way,'” Jarrett said.

By the end of his Hall of Fame career in 1966, Jarrett accumulated 50 Cup wins and two championships (1961, 1965).

In that time he was also raising a family of three, including two sons.

In a vintage Ford promotional video featuring him and his family, Jarrett said his oldest son Glenn “really does not have a desire to become a race driver.” When it came to his middle child, Dale, Ned remarked that he “seems destined to become a race driver.”

Dale was 9 at the time.

“We understood the life and what it was about,” Dale Jarrett said. “In those days they were racing 70-some races a year. It was three and four races a week at times. … When he was there, it was time that we cherished when he was at home.”

Watch the above video for the entire first part of the interview.

Coffee with Kyle: Mike Helton opens up about the loss of Dale Earnhardt

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There are “a lot of conversations” from Feb. 18, 2001 that Mike Helton will “probably take to my grave.”

Those conversations resulted in Helton, now NASCAR’s Vice Chairman, revealing to the world that day that Dale Earnhardt had been killed in a wreck on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

“By then I think of most of the industry had figured it out. But we had to authenticate it and make it official,” Helton said in the latest episode of “Coffee with Kyle.”

Mike Helton moments before he announced Dale Earnhardt’s death on Feb. 18, 2001.

“I got picked to do it,” Helton told Kyle Petty. “I said, I used some adult words, ‘But we just lost the biggest thing in our sport. What am I going to say?’

“Brian France or maybe Paul Brooks or somebody said, ‘Well, that’s what you say, we just lost the biggest thing in our sport today.'”

Eighteen years later, Helton thinks he knows “more about what I said later on looking at it than I did at the moment of saying it. Because it was tough.”

In the wake of Earnhardt’s death, Helton said NASCAR leadership recognized how much it relied on The Intimidator’s voice in the garage.

“We couldn’t tap the next Dale Sr. on the shoulder and say, ‘You’re it,'” Helton said. “It needed to be organic out of the garage area. We were kind of settling in to see who that would be. (Jeff) Gordon wasn’t ready to accept it, although people said, ‘You should and you need to.’ But Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte, those individuals banded together to do it as a group instead of an individual until Gordon was ready to be that voice.”

But in the nearly two decades since, Helton said there hasn’t been a driver voice that’s emerged that has been as “strategic and as pragmatic” as that of Earnhardt.

Watch the above video for more of Kyle Petty’s interview with Helton.

Coffee with Kyle: Richard Petty and Dale Inman went separate ways

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With the end of the 2018 season, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have parted ways. Johnson has a new crew chief in Kevin Meendering; Knaus has a new driver in William Byron.

The latest edition of “Coffee with Kyle” takes a look at another legendary pairing that split up: Richard Petty and his cousin Dale Inman.

Petty and Inman both believe Knaus has a better chance at winning another championship than Johnson. They came to that conclusion based on experience.

Petty and Inman combined for 166 wins and seven championships before they split up.

“(Going our separate ways) was probably one of the best things that ever happened to both of us,” Petty said. “Because once we got away from each other we realized how we depended on each other.”

Separating might have been good for them personally, but Petty’s performance was never the same. He went on to win just two more races.

Petty’s 199th win came at Dover in May 1984.

“Dover was a big win,” Petty said. “It had been a while since we won. But then everything was ‘the next race, the next race, the next race’ before we went to Daytona. Everybody was expecting the 200 anytime. We was too. But it couldn’t have been any better than for us to win the 200th race July the 4th in front of the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan).

“If you wrote a script, nobody would have bought it.”

Part 1: Richard Petty: Racing ‘took us to the real world’
Part 2: The story behind debut of Plymouth’s NASCAR Superbird

Inman was hired by Rod Osterlund in 1980 and crewed the car for Dale Earnhardt and later Joe Ruttman without another win. 

“Then we got Tim Richmond and what a natural he was,” Inman said. “Didn’t know nothing about a race car. … Even Earnhardt respected him a lot, because he came in and raced Earnhardt.”

In 1982 Richmond won twice at Riverside. Those were the first wins for Inman after leaving Petty Enterprises.

Inman scored another championship with Terry Labonte in 1984. They won on consistency with only two wins but top fives in 17 of 30 races that year.

Regarding a short-lived pairing with Earnhardt, Inman said: “He couldn’t control himself. Darrell Waltrip intimidated him so bad it was unreal. The bad thing on my resume was I never won a race with Earnhardt.”

The episode can be found on the NBC Sports YouTube page.

Click here to watch the “Coffee with Kyle” episode with Tony Stewart.